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What MP3 player for my particular needs?

I have an old Creative MuVo2 4GB which is starting to show its age. Obviously time to upgrade -- but I just don't know what to choose!

I have an old Creative MuVo2 4GB which is starting to show its age -- I've just had to reformat the hard disk for the second time and the headphone socket is wobbly so the sound is intermittent. Obviously time to upgrade then, but I just don't know what to choose!

These are my criteria:

* Bigger capacity

* Easy to use -- especially for tags and labelling, scrolling through, easy find and select

* Excellent sound (I recently invested in a pair of Universal Ears at great expense so I want a player to give me matching great quality sound)

* Able to be used without the proprietary software

* Easy playlist compiling, including on the move playlisting

* One touch random play if possible

* Clear screen -- nice and easy to see track names

* Small and lightweight, good looking

* Not bothered about video playback, I'm strictly a sound junkie!

* And I don't want an iPod because I don't want to be tied into iTunes alone, I have masses of WAVs, WMAs etc.

Even though I'm not interested in video, is it a Creative Zen Vision:M for me?

Your advice would be very much appreciated!

Emma Gedge

If you're set on avoiding iPods, then take a look at the SanDisk Sansa e260 -- it mounts as a standard USB drive and you can drag tracks to it. There's an 8GB version of this.

You suggest the Creative Zen Vision:M as a possibility -- while this is a great player, it is quite bulky and we can't recommend it unless you're going to take advantage of its ability to play video files. There are, however, other players -- if you're don't mind importing take a look at the Microsoft Zune, and it might also be worth checking out the eccentric and low-capacity Samsung YP-K5, which is available to buy in this country.

I can understand your reservations about the iPod -- after all, who wants to be a zombie? But I find myself struggling to suggest anything that matches your requirements better than the iPod nano. It's widely accepted as having the best sound quality of all the current MP3 players -- several specialist hi-fi magazines place it top for sound quality -- and it's by far the most usable (Apple holds a patent on the Click Wheel, which is the only really practical way of scrolling through a significant amount of music).

The nano will also play your WAV files -- but you'll have to convert your WMAs using free software, such as Anapod Explorer. There's also plenty of free software -- although again you can use Anapod Explorer -- that will let you use your iPod without iTunes, and iPods are no longer tied to a single copy of iTunes, or a single machine, so you're in luck there.

Good luck, and happy iPodding (oops, we mean MP3 playering).